NATIONAL NEWS

Powerful storms kill 3 as tornadoes tear through central and southeastern US

May 7, 2024, 9:48 PM | Updated: May 8, 2024, 8:10 pm

COLUMBIA, Tenn. (AP) — Severe storms tore through parts of the U.S. again Wednesday, spawning damaging tornadoes, producing massive hail, and killing two people in Tennessee and one person in North Carolina.

A storm that rumbled across northeastern Tennessee brought high winds that knocked down powerlines and trees. Claiborne County Sheriff Bob Brooks said a 22-year-old man was in a car struck by one of the trees.

Wednesday afternoon, a tornado emergency — the weather service’s highest alert level — was issued for an area south of Nashville including the towns of Spring Hill, Chapel Hill and Eagleville.

The National Weather Service had previously reported a likely tornado on the ground in nearby Columbia, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) south of Nashville. People in Columbia were injured and homes were damaged, according to Lynn Thompson, assistant director of Maury County 911. Thompson told The Associated Press that he could not provide any further details: “We’re getting overloaded right now.”

Rita Thompson, Marketing & Communications director with Maury Regional Health, said the hospital had received five patients. One died, another was in serious condition and three had injuries that were not life-threatening.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a temporary ground stop at Nashville International Airport because of the weather, media outlets reported. Northeast of Nashville, a flash flood emergency was issued for Sumner and Robertson counties including the cities of Hendersonville and Gallatin. The National Weather Service said water rescues were ongoing in those areas and described the flooding from heavy thunderstorms as life-threatening.

“Do not attempt to travel unless you are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order,” the weather agency alert said.

The National Weather Service in Nashville on Wednesday evening issued a tornado watch for parts of Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee until 3 a.m. CDT. The weather service continued issuing tornado warnings into the night, mostly in Tennessee, but also in Missouri, Alabama, Georgia and Texas.

In North Carolina, a state of emergency was declared for Gaston County Wednesday evening following a large storm. First responders were working to clear roads of downed power lines and broken trees and were helping residents, officials said. The New Hope Fire Department responded to a tree down on a car. One person in the car was killed and another was taken to a hospital, officials said.

More than 135,000 customers had lost power in the state as of Wednesday evening, according to PowerOutage.us.

The National Weather Service confirmed tornadoes touched down Tuesday in western Ohio: five in Warren County and one each in Darke, Mercer and Auglaize counties. The weather service said crews are still surveying areas in other counties to determine if tornadoes struck there, as well. The strong storms also brought hail and heavy rains to the state and knocked out power to thousands of utility customers.

In Michigan, weather service meteorologist Nathan Jeruzal said the tornadoes there touched down one each in Kalamazoo, Cass and Branch counties — all in the southwestern part of the state. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for four counties.

Kalamazoo County’s Portage area was hard hit as a FedEx facility was ripped apart and more than a dozen mobile homes were destroyed. About 50 people temporarily were trapped inside the damaged facility because of downed power lines.

More than a dozen homes were destroyed in a mobile home park in adjacent Pavilion Township and 16 people were injured, said Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller.

Samantha Smith clutched a box Wednesday afternoon as she stepped from her mother’s partially wrecked home in Pavilion Township, about 137 miles (220 kilometers) west of Detroit. Inside the box were her grandmother’s ashes. Being able to recover the most cherished of items offered Smith a rare moment of relief amid the storm’s devastation. She said her parents and brother were injured during the storm but survived.

“I have thanked God probably a billion times since this happened yesterday,” she said. “My kids are healthy and good. We just gotta make back up what we lost.”

Travis Wycoff ventured out Tuesday night after seeing on radar that a tornado had touched down in the Portage area, and he said he helped an elderly couple out of their partially collapsed home and freed a service dog from a home.

“There were a lot of people running through the streets trying to find people and their pets,” Wycoff said. “It was just a lot of chaos.”

In southern Indiana, the National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touched down early Wednesday. The Clark County Emergency Management Agency said the storm damaged 24 structures, including homes in a subdivision north of the city of Sellersburg, located about 12 miles (19 kilometers) north of Louisville, Kentucky.

Candice Holmes, a resident of the Lewis & Clark subdivision north of Sellersburg, said she, her husband and son sought shelter in their bathroom when they heard the approaching storm and “the wind just picked up all at once.”

“It was definitely a scary moment. … And I’m glad we’re alive,” Holmes told WDRB-TV.

Tornadoes were also confirmed in Pennsylvania just outside Pittsburgh, in central Arkansas and in northern West Virginia. The West Virginia twister was at least the 11th tornado this year in the state, which sees two tornadoes in an average year.

Baseball-sized hail was reported Wednesday in areas just southwest of St. Louis. Heavy downpours caused flash flooding and at least one water rescue near Sullivan, a town that was struck by a small tornado just two days earlier. Damaging hail also was reported in the Kansas City area.

On Monday, parts of the central United States were battered by heavy rain, strong winds, hail and tornadoes, including a deadly twister that ripped through an Oklahoma town. Both the Plains and Midwest have been hammered by tornadoes this spring.

Across the U.S., the entire week is looking stormy. The Midwest and the South are expected to get the brunt of the bad weather through the rest of the week, including in Indianapolis, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee — cities where more than 21 million people live. It should be clear over the weekend.

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Cappelletti and White reported from Detroit. Associated Press journalists around the country contributed to this report, including Rio Yamat, Heather Hollingsworth, Colleen Slevin, Jim Salter, Kathy McCormack, Sarah Brumfield, Beatrice Dupuy, Alexa St. John, Adrian Sainz, John Raby and Lisa Baumann.

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The Associated Press’ climate and environmental coverage receives financial support from multiple private foundations. AP is solely responsible for all content. Find AP’s standards for working with philanthropies, a list of supporters and funded coverage areas at AP.org.

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Powerful storms kill 3 as tornadoes tear through central and southeastern US